Greasing Palms to No End


Greasing Palms to No End
The growing relationship between games and movies

Originally Published on August 27, 2002

The gaming industry is rapidly unlocking a genre that has been little used until recently, the movie tie-in game. With the advent of blockbuster sci-fi films, the recent breakout of fantasy epics (by the way could someone please abandon Harry Potter to the Uru-kai because the last thing we need is another boring point for point film), and comic books rapidly becoming successful film franchises, the video game industry is being tapped again and again to boost merchandising for the films by producing a game of the movie.

Don’t get me wrong; cross media productions can be a great thing. Many books have been made into fantastic films, and the upcoming Two Towers game isn’t the first time that the battle for Helm’s Deep has been rendered digitally. Hell, even Turok has managed a fairly successful run in the gaming industry. What bothers me about all of this is that the games are being made to coincide with the release of the film. The producers are more concerned with making an ass load of money than they are with producing quality products. It’s all just marketing and profit, milk the name for all it’s worth and hope for the best.

Sometimes it works out well, you get a game like Spider-Man that does a good job of following the basic plot of the film but diverges greatly by adding breadth to the story and play time (having Bruce Campbell guide you through the tutorials didn’t hurt either). Then there are games like The Scorpion King, which turn out as mediocre as the movie, if not worse.

What really bothers me, though, are games that just follow the plot of the movie without any differences, which if you couldn’t tell was my whole problem with Harry Potter, because if you are that doggedly faithful to the plot, dialogue, etc of a book then what’s the point of spending the $7.00 to go see it in the first place. By the same note games being what they are today why spend the $50.00 to experience the same plot as the movie you just saw.

Even worse, you risk blowing big plot twists to audiences before they even see the movie. Anyone think the “Vader revelation” would have been as big as it was if everyone had found it out a month beforehand? It may have made Allen Dean Foster rue his choice in plot earlier I know that, but as a story, video games have not been very effective until recently, so let the movie tell the plot and build public acclaim before you try to cash in on it.

That’s the biggest problem with all of this. Instead of trying for an effective retelling of the film or comic, or what have you, there is just a rote copying of the source material. What makes a movie adaptation of a novel is not only how faithful it is to the source, but also where and how it takes liberties in order to bring the audience into the story. It’s amazing how much tolerance fans have for stretching the usual bounds of cherished characters and scenes if the heart is kept the same.

Look at the Ultimate X-Men comic series, or the Batman movies (not Joel Schumacher’s versions, I mean good God someone get that man some style and some common sense- a motorcycle race that wasn’t going to be finished?). The best examples are stories that keep the soul of the characters and relationships fairly true, but have an original plot; the Buffy game, and Smallville are exactly what I mean. Of course good play control and graphics never hurt anything, since we are talking about video games, and Lucas Arts sound quality just makes things sweeter.

In short everyone wants to fly Superman through Metropolis, or lead Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli across Middle-Earth, or better yet pilot Rogue One down the maw of the Death Star. Hell, I still want to break Eva-01 out on some rogue Angles, but that’s not going to happen in this country any time soon. Everyone has favorites and wants to low ride along side them, cruising the strip for girls and beating a few heads. An untrained troglodyte has enough sense to see that. What earns you a gold star is slapping some funk on it, so the colors shine, the sound shimmies, and you don’t have struggle to strut your turkey.

Mat Houghton